Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mena Wang's Baked Nian Gao

This is a traditional dessert for Chinese New Year - 'nian' is the word for sticky, but it sounds the same as the word for year, and 'gao' means cake, but sounds the same as high or lofty. We like eating things that are homonyms for fortunate or auspicious things, so this is the perfect dessert for the New Year.

Usually, nian gao is steamed, but my mom always made it in cake form. Sadly she couldn't remember the recipe, so I had to go with an internet recipe that I found here. I had to make some adjustments - I don't have a 9" by 13" cake pan, so I baked it in a round, 10' silicone cake pan instead. Also, I took out the red bean paste because my mom's nian gao never had any in it. I think Mochiko is a popular brand of rice flour in the US but since I couldn't find any in London, I used Chewy brand rice flour from Thailand. This makes a very runny batter - it doesn't resemble what normal cake batter looks like at all. While the result tasted ok, it was nothing at all like my mom's cake, so the search continues...

Nian Gao

16 oz. (454 g) Mochiko sweet rice flour
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbl baking soda

Mix everything with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed.

Sprinkle rice flour over a 9"x13" baking dish that has been oiled or sprayed with Pam.

Pour batter into the baking pan.

Bake in oven at 350F / 180C degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick (this is Chinese New Year’s Cake after all)—if it comes out clean, it is done.


  1. xin nian kuai le! hm, does she just make the nian gao from muscle memory? maybe next time document it while she makes it.